Marriage of Necessity: Integrating PR & Marketing to Survive Turbulent Times


Communications--and business in general--is in the midst of a sea change, what with the new incoming political administration, the recession and, of course, the ever-growing number of social media platforms. It's certainly a time of transition, and it's created an opportunity for PR execs to take the lead in helping their companies and clients navigate the new challenges surrounding stakeholder outreach and engagement. Marketers, on the other hand, have struggled in many ways to find their place within modern organizational structures, having involuntarily relinquished much of their perceived upper hand over PR. That said, no communications initiative (internal or external) can stand without two legs--that is, without both PR and marketing--which requires executives on both sides of the fence to collaborate on integrated communications efforts that enhance their reputations and bottom lines. Overcoming their stormy history is a necessary evil, if only for PR and marketing's one shared objective: survival. "Integration trumps independence," says Tim Marklein, EVP of measurement and strategy for Weber Shandwick. But before successful integration can occur, communications executives must understand the definition of that which they are trying to achieve. "Integrated communications utilizes functions, tools, channels, research, messages, processes, feedback and methodologies to drive and influence behaviors in a planned, coordinated and collaborative manner," says Matt Gonring, a consultant with Gagen MacDonald. These three elements--planning, coordination and collaboration--are essential to effective integrated communications. But for every driver of integration (efficiency, cross- utilization, fact-backed programming), there is an impediment, be it siloed organizational structures, a lack of support from leadership or a lack of vision. That's not to say integration is avoidable. According to Gonring, "There's nothing to stop the momentum, nor take its place." With that, here's a plan for navigating a rocky courtship and marrying PR and marketing: *Map out communications to all stakeholders. This preliminary process helps identify the messages' target stakeholder groups, as well as the discipline--PR versus marketing-- that traditionally have responsibility for each message dissemination. Target stakeholders could include customers, employees, shareholders, NGOs and regulators. *Assign communication roles along a functional continuum. According to Gonring, the functional continuum visualizes the roles that contribute to driving integration. They range from analytical (pricing, segmentation, IR) to creative (multimedia, design, advertising), and the continuum's inherent complexity requires a range of skills for all functions to be effectively executed--thus, the importance of integrating PR and marketing executives' skill sets becomes clear. "Consistent messaging within and across communications is critical for success," says Angela Jeffrey, VP of editorial research for VMS. *Identify the components of integration in the context of your organization. Integration is a vast concept that can be taken in so many directions, which necessitates whittling the big picture down to a thumbnail that applies to your company and stakeholders to avoid getting lost. Gonring identifies the following types of integrated marketing campaigns that combine to represent the buffet table from which executives can pick their point of departure: Brand development Central planning Marketing alignment Integration between planning and execution Integration of all functional groups Customer relationship management (CRM) *Develop integrated plans that are aligned with the organization's structure. "Integration development must mirror organizational development [and emanate] from the organization's setup," Gonring says. To ensure this happens, communicators must assess their organizations': Structure Communications style Engagement with employees Clarity of business strategy Selling-in methodology Motivations for change Supporters/sponsors *Establish metrics to benchmark the degree of integration in relation to set objectives. Metrics can fall under the following categories, Marklein says, and can be assessed by asking relevant questions (for a list of specific data sources, see bottom sidebar): Activities: What activities were performed to achieve results? Reach: Did you reach your audience? How many impressions, Web visits, etc., were generated? Relevance: Were you relevant to your audience? Did your ideas and messages resonate? Did you drive conversation? Outcomes: What business results did you achieve? Worth: What is the estimated dollar value of your communications efforts? What was the ROI? Regardless of your organization's path to integration, the need to take the first step is undeniable. As summarized by Tom Collinger, associate dean of Medill's Integrated Marketing Communications Program (Northwestern University) at a past CMO conference, "We are in a world where it is not PR or advertising, not qualitative or quantitative, not traditional media or new media, but PR and advertising, qualitative and quantitative, traditional media and new media." CONTACTS: Matt Gonring, m.gonring@gagenmac.com; Angela Jeffrey, angela.jeffrey@vmsinfo.com; Tim Marklein, tmarklein@webershandwick.com Integration: Stages Of Development Much like the stages of overcoming grief or the steps to achieving self-efficacy, the path to true integration can be summarized by the following sequence of accomplishments, each of which builds upon those that came before it: 1. Coordinated activities between marketing and PR 2. Establishing message continuity 3. Achieving an outside-in perspective 4. Participating in shared planning 5. Establishing a sequence of information dissemination 6. Allocating resources for media deployment 7. Sharing common customer insight 8. Collaborating on internal marketing 9. Identifying behaviors and measurements 10. Conducting customer loyalty indexing 11. Establishing operational delivery/alignment 12. Achieving ultimate integration Source: Matt Gonring, Gagen MacDonald Tapping Into Multiple Data Sources PR, AR and IR team data Media content analysis and metrics Online and social media monitoring Advertising and marcom team data Web analytics and online traffic data Event attendance and lead gen data Customer and brand surveys Annual/quarterly employee surveys Industry and financial analyst reports Third-party surveys and awards Source: Tim Marklein, Executive Vice President, ?Measurement & Strategy, Weber Shandwick

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